Democracy Soup

Making sense out of the world of politics

The underutilization of Tom Vilsack in fight for healthier school lunches

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The joke in Republican administrations is that the best job to have is the Secretary of Labor, since Republicans don’t care about Labor. You don’t have to be visible and you never get any press, good or bad.

Well, Democratic Cabinet members aren’t as visible as they need to be, even if they are more visible than their GOP counterparts. With attempts to increase school lunch funding, with a number of food issues, we have heard little from Tom Vilsack, Secretary of Agriculture.

Obviously, the Shirley Sherrod saga has thrust Vilsack into the spotlight, and not in a favorable way. To quote from my column in my sister blog,

Clearly, the White House and Secretary of Agriculture panicked when a clearly edited videotape was made to misrepresent Sherrod in a long ago speech. And given Andrew Breibart’s reputation, many questions should have been asked before taking the tape at face value.

But this isn’t the first time we should have seen Vilsack in the news. You have a president and First Lady interested in healthier school lunches, yet the Agriculture Secretary is mysteriously quiet. Those who advocated for Michael Pollan, or some similar figure for the post, have to be disillusioned.

Cabinet members serve the president: this is how the system works. But there is a feeling that cabinet members are an outlet in a particular category that should be more accessible to the public. After all, the president can’t be everywhere. Cabinet members can serve as an ambassador, listening to the people’s concerns.

But when you have a USDA that inspects food and promotes food — all under the same roof — conflicting duties are the least of the problems.

Maybe we need a Secretary of Food as well as a Secretary of Agriculture. And both secretaries need to be out in the public light a lot more often. Otherwise, we may judge them negatively if only scandal is attached to their name, and they’re not seen as fighting for the people who elected his boss.

For the full perspective on Vilsack, Sherrod, and more, read the item in


Written by democracysoup

July 26, 2010 at 8:34 am

Posted in food, nutrition

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